Wednesday, October 29, 2008

V to the Tenth: A McGill Tribute

Photograph of Eve Ensler pulled off Google

Eve Ensler’s 1998 groundbreaking benefit play, “The Vagina Monologues”, gave birth to a new rise of female empowerment and has since strived to literally change the story of women, globally. Thanks to her innovative performances throughout the USA, Eve Ensler sparked a bout of inspiration within a number of women, young and old, who decided to voice their experiences to a then lesser-known activist. Hundreds of these stories involved devastating clashes such as: rape, incest, domestic battery, and genital mutilation of women and young girls. That Valentine’s Day milestone performance of “The Vagina Monologues” began what is now known as the V-Day movement, which seeks to bring an end to global violence against women and girls. Following her 1998 performance, a number of sub-actions and organizations have been launched in order to broaden the scope of awareness of V-day, including the College Campaign; of which our very own McGill University is a participant.

McGill first adopted V-Day through Queer McGill who took it on as part of Dyke Days in 2002. Then, in 2003//2004, V-Day became its very own club within the Student’s Society of McGill University. Since which, McGill has been putting on annual production of “The Vagina Monologues” and have been bringing awareness to McGill students, along with people in the greater Montreal area, about gender-based violence. I was lucky enough to go see this year’s production of “The Vagina Monologues”, which was one of the many benefit performances and activities organized as not only part of their annual V-Day festivities, but also to commemorate V-Day’s TENTH year! That’s right people, TEN YEARS of a global female movement, TEN YEARS of change, TEN YEARS of true-life experiences, TEN YEARS of vagina love, TEN YEARS of…ok, you get my point. It’s a big deal, and if you love being a women, then you must love your vagina! While watching “The Vagina Monologues” being performed, I realized how passionate these girls were.

Most of you reading this article are probably thinking that I’m a crazy person or are at least somewhat perturbed just by the mere thought of saying the word: “vagina”. Say it aloud now, “v-a-g-i-n-a”. You’re not saying out loud though are you? And do you know why? Because, you think it’s “weird” don’t you? Well, McGill girls don’t think it’s weird. In fact, they were so overcome with vagina rejoice that “The Vagina Monologue” girls decided to replace the name “Jude” with “cunt”. That’s right, “Hey Jude” was transformed into “Hey cunt” in the very enthusiastic V-Day McGill rendition of the classic Beatles song, “Hey Jude”. Sarcasm aside, Claire Hughes and her co-organizer Evelyn Kuang – the benefit performance’s organizers, did generate a good show. I must admit that, not only for the very entertaining rendition but for the actual true-based monologues, this performance was a real eye-opener…and jaw dropping show for that matter.

I was able to get a hold of V-Day’s benefit performance organizer, Claire Hughes and ask her exactly why this particular campaign means so much to her, “V-Day McGill appeals to me a great deal because there is something for everyone. First and foremost, there is a feminist and activist element alive in everything we do. There is also a theatrical element for the artsy types and strong charitable element for those who love knowing that they're working for a worthy cause. There is also an element of education present in all of our complimenting events in the hopes that we may help break the cycle of gender-based violence. The cause holds great importance to me in the same way that it should to everyone. Gender-based violence touches us all, whether through first-hand experiences, through the experiences of family members, through the experiences of friends and so on”. As for what Claire and her fellow co-volunteers hope will derive from watching such productions, she says they simply hope that, “people will get a chance to see depictions of gender-based violence and see it not only as inevitability, but as something that we have the power to change.”

Personally, I don’t think people will be able to forget such a production of “The Vagina Monologues”, especially with the whole Beatles “cunt” thing going on. They pretty much got their point across and as Claire puts it, “The performances don't shy away from accurately portraying instances of physical, verbal and emotional abuse. They ultimately pave the way towards an optimistic future where we are respectful of all those who identify as women and reverent of the sacrifices that so many have made so that we may one day live in a world without gender-based violence. Likewise, I hope that all of our complimenting events play a role in empowering people, informing people and inciting action, leaving the door wide open for new activists and volunteers to in turn inform and empower others!”

Quite a dream Claire and McGill V-Day participants have there isn’t it? If you would like to be a part of this dream –and I sure hope us “Marianopolians” would be more than eager to be-, you can get involved with V-Day McGill by simply sending an e-mail at Better yet, if you’d like to get a V-Day chapter set up for Marianopolis (*hint *hint all you novel activists), simply visit Only reading and clicking skills are required.

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Romance Intolerance

Character Carrie Bradshaw –played by Jessica Parker in the hit HBO series, Sex and the City- once asked herself if society had become “romance-intolerant”. This got me thinking and finally leading up to the conclusion, that yes, I do believe that we –as the multi-faceted, fast pace society we are- have indeed become romance-intolerant. Not to sound too stereotypical here –when in fact, that is exactly how I’m sounding-, but women are always complaining about how men are emotionally retarded. However, there is one common theory about women; that we have no fucking clue what we want, and it is true! We believe something, want something at one moment, and then completely change our minds at the next. There was even a movie made to back-up this predominant male ideology; a little movie called, “What Women Want”.

Through the tugging and pulling of the genders, have we eventually become numb to the romantics of the past, whereby courting a woman involved more than a simple number exchange? The same goes for same-sex relationships, of course. My friend and I were discussing this very issue the other day and I remember asking her her opinion on the matter. Contrary, she does not believe we have become romance-intolerant, but have rather, predictably, become caught up in our ever-changing perception of what love is. Thus, we’re left with several different possibilities of love. So, I asked myself; can it really be possible to love significant others in completely distinct and yet still significant ways? Are we sure we’re not just trying to make excuses for ourselves, when in fact we have become romance-intolerant and we’ve just yet to realize…or better yet, accepted it?

My friend, we’ll call her Eve, continuously let a guy she’d completely fallen for drag her along like a raggedy Anne doll. He would pick her up, exasperate his undying love for her, and then literally disappear for week on end and come back only to give her yet another elaborate apology. Now, reading this, you’re sure to say you wouldn’t let this happen to you, if it hasn’t already. But, how do you really know you’re not that girl, the girl that accepts the apologies to be able to believe and trust in something that was never even there to begin with? Maybe we’re just faking our love, however ludicrous it may sound. I mean, we’d basically be doing what we’re taught to do right? “Fake it ‘til you make it?” For many women, it’s as though we’re attracted to the completely wrong guys and when, to the blind stranger, it seems as though the right one’s come along for us, we dump them because we’re not used to the “real thing”. Sometimes, we even isolate ourselves so that we won’t make the same mistakes again, but with isolation come desolation.

The majority of the modern, media-based peoples are too caught up in their own conundrums to think about properly courting their potential partner, let alone be open to a relationship that is sitting right in front of their noses. Of course, there are still the old-fashioned flower-bringers and hand-kissers, but that’s what the whole concept goes back to; the term, “old-fashioned”. Why have these actions and ways of courting become so passé? Is it because –irregardless-, of our dreams involving the fantasy lover and grand love-affair, we still feel that urge to cringe at the sight of our significant other bringing us flowers or kissing our hand. Shouldn’t this be common ground for the both of us, without cringe and/or fuss of embarrassment? Will we ever be able to wake-up to our true desires and embrace the romance and all of its sub-actions, instead of fearing and loathing the mere thought? Forget about first-person actions, what about second-person reactions? Let’s not forget those reactions to PDAs (for those of you living under a rock: public displays of affection). Those dirty looks, the murmurs of disapproval and even disgust at times. I gotta say, either we really have become romance-intolerant, or we’ve never really experienced love at all, and this begs the question; I wonder why?

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Who is Mr. Clasper?

Wayne photographed with items that can be found, amongst several others, in Wayne's World.

He’s WAYNE! I love how this man doesn’t even need an introduction. Everyone knows who Wayne is and to be quite honest, I’ve never heard anyone speak badly of him. I’m pretty sure that it’s safe to say Wayne is one of the coolest –if not the coolest- person in Marianopolis. If there’s anything you need, whether it be information, money, or simple materials for school, you can be sure that Wayne’s your man. Having been at Marianopolis for what will, in January, be eighteen years, Wayne’s got the trust and respect of both the student and faculty alike.

The Wayne’s World we know comes to include anything from the must-have scientific calculator to floss. To some, this might seem a little excessive –having everything a person would ever need in a school-, but to Wayne, this is his main function, “having 95% of what someone might want." This priority comes in at a close second to his number one: being the Front and Center literal Know-It-All of Marianopolis. The weirdest request Wayne’s received? From what I can tell, that would be chopsticks. Apparently, more than one person as of late has been asking for chopsticks. So now, Wayne’s on a mission to expand the franchise, with the help of some Marianopolis funding, to include dollar store bought chopsticks. I guess when you think of it, chopsticks isn’t that weird of a request. I mean, Wayne’s had people asking him for deodorant, socks (yes…you read right), and tampons. He’s learned from experience that if more than one person has –a what might at first seem to be- an odd request, it’s soon to become an all too common request amongst the student body of Marianopolis Cegep. However, Wayne did point out that he’s been asked quite a few times how he’s ever able to keep himself entertained. Going day to day, carrying on with the “same old routine” must get boring, no? Not to Wayne, “everyday is different. I never know what each day is going to bring. Even though most of the requests are the same, the people are different." Therefore, the delivery and all-around experience is different –and that’s what it’s all about.

Being the best friend of a Marianopolis faculty member has it’s advantages, as explained by Wayne himself whose best friend was the student animator 18 years back. The student animator had informed our dear friend Wayne that there was an opening, thanks to a secretary who was fed up with running back and forth from her office to meet the students with their questions. Prior to this magnificent job offer that literally fell into his lap, Wayne spent his days coaching local sports teams, varying from soccer to rugby. Obviously, our guy was pretty active and thanks to his prior experience with kids ranging from 14 years to around 17 years, Wayne came into this job with keen instincts on how to handle the adolescent spirit that is the Marianopolis student.

To Wayne, this job couldn’t be more perfect. It dawned on him, in his late 20s, that he actually had a passion for teaching, as reflected in his coaching career that began in his mid-teens. Although, his position didn’t exactly entail your typical teacher-student scenario, Wayne was quite content in that he still had the chance to work and connect with students in what is essentially a scholarly atmosphere. Never having worked any place for more than 5 years (one place), it’s clear as day that Wayne’s happy where he is, and Wayne; we’re happy where you are too! But, what does the future hold for 48 year old Wayne Clasper (I know. He doesn’t look a day over…37)? Apparently, Marianopolis …that is, until he gets the urge to move, as he did with his former coaching job-, “your heart will tell you when it’s time to leave or move on.”
For the few of you who don’t know, Wayne’s World is located just in front of the cafeteria.

QAM: Too Shy to Come Out?

Marianopolis faculty & staff QAM sticker campaign. A "safe zone" for students to ask questions and discuss matters without fear of prejudice or shame.

Queer Allies of Marianopolis was founded around 4 years ago by one of the most enthusiastic leaders of GLAM (gay, lesbian, and more). Essentially, QAM is a sticker campaign oriented around the staff and faculty members of Marianopolis. The stickers themselves are easily recognized; just look for the rainbow colored upside down triangle that has the letters Q-A-M on the top and you can be sure that’s the sticker for QAM. Dr. Skerry and Brian Webb are the two faculty members that put the workshop together ad invited their coworkers to join the committee. The purpose of such a committee was to ensure the safety and comfort for all Marianopolis students. These workshops worked on how to handle certain questions and especially issues that may, if they hadn’t already, arise. One issue in particular is the use of the word “gay” as an insult (i.e. “that’s so gay”). Unfortunately, many people can’t comprehend that when using the word “gay” as an insult, there might be people around them who will get severely offended. So, not only is it offensive, but it’s also grammatically incorrect (see editorials). Thus, if any student has a question or simply wants to speak to one of the committee members, they need not feel ashamed.

The sticker, which can be found on most faculty and staff doors throughout Marianopolis, is a symbol of security, comfort and understanding. However, after speaking with Véronique Champoux, one of the committee members of QAM, I was informed that QAM has yet to be in action this year and was extremely slow on the promotion and action side of things last year. Champoux explains that with the stress and confusion of the Marianopolis site move, the committee has hardly had the time to meet, let alone discuss. What's more, this year students don’t seem to be as motivated as past year’s students. There’s no GLAM club this semester, and the result of that; there’s less promotion for QAM’s sticker campaign, and less awareness for the right of acceptance and ensured sanctuary of gay, lesbian, and more peoples of Marianopolis.

By the way, if you don’t see a sticker on a faculty or staff member’s door, it’s not because they’re homophobic. It simply means that the person does not feel comfortable discussing such an issue with student body of Marianopolis. That, and there’s a good chance that some new staff or faculty members haven’t yet had the chance to learn about QAM and the sticker campaign simple because they’re…well…new. But, with any luck, this article will spread the word and save the world. Ok, so that might be stretching it a bit but you can’t blame me for being optimistic. If you feel that you would like to be a part of the sticker campaign, although it’s a committee composed of only staff and faculty members, there’s not rule that prevents students from getting a sticker and promoting the campaign themselves. Hopefully, next semester, Marianopolis will re-introduce the GLAM club and will in turn be able to activate and motivate the student body to make a difference in the GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) world. So, no worries fellow students, the sticker campaign has not fallen, it’s just a little shy to come out at the moment. I’m just letting you know that they’re still there to help you with any questions or concerns that you might have, and if you’d like; feel free to speak with Véronique Champoux or Philip Dann, co-chair of QAM.

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